Resting on the edge of the Arctic Circle and sitting atop one of the world’s most volcanically active hot spots, Iceland is an inspiring mix of magisterial glaciers, bubbling hot springs and rugged fjords, where activities such as hiking under the Midnight Sun are complemented by healthy doses of history and literature. The modern and cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavík, may be small but has a lively atmosphere more than capable of keeping you entertained when you travel to Iceland.
Landscapes in Iceland
Iceland is a place where nature reigns supreme. Aside from Reykjavík, population centres are small, with diminutive towns, fishing villages, farms and minute hamlets clustered along the coastal fringes. The Interior, meanwhile, remains totally uninhabited and unmarked by humanity: a starkly beautiful wilderness of ice fields, windswept upland plateaux, infertile lava and ash deserts and the frigid vastness of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier.
Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic ridge also gives it one of the most volcanically active landscapes on Earth, peppered with everything from naturally occurring hot springs, scaldingly hot bubbling mud pools and noisy steam vents to a string of unpredictably violent volcanoes, which have regularly devastated huge parts of the country. The latest events came in 2010, when Eyjafjallajökull erupted and caused havoc across Europe; and in 2015, when the eruption at Holuhraun created a huge new lavafield.
Best time to visit Iceland
Keep in mind that the island is in the North Atlantic, so temperatures are often quite chilly. The best times to visit are often during the summer months of July and August when the weather is a little warmer. February, March, September and October are ideal times to visit if you wish to tick the Northern lights from your bucket list as the chances are much higher in the colder months.
Itinerary for when you travel Iceland
Thanks to the modest size of Iceland and it’s looped roads, travelling around is relatively easy. The picturesque hot-spots of the country can be travelled in a short 4 – 5 days or alternatively, a stretched out road trip for 10 days is relaxed and enjoyable. If you are short on time, a 3 – 4 day intinerary is easily possible and makes for a fun mini-adventure. Below is a classic route for first-time travellers, although you can also check out our tailor-made trips!
Days 1 – 2: The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a charming route that consists of roughly 250 km, from Reyjavik to central Iceland and back again, whilst stopping off at the most popular tourist spots. The road is easy to explore and offers scenic views.
Days 2 -3: South Island
The South Island makes it easy to see how Iceland got its nickname as the land of fire and ice, with Volcanoes and black sand beaches in one destination, and icy glaciers in the next. Here you can walk behind the waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, and climb the 11 km Solheimajokull Glacier. Keep an eye out for Puffins, the islands happy little residents that have become quite famous.
Days 3 – 4: Reykjavik and Blue Lagoon
The sleepy capital of Reykjavik is a sweet little spot for trendy cafes and a great opportunity to learn about some of Iceland’s history. Make your way to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja, a parish church that offers pretty views of the colourful houses that make up the capital city. Head to the Settlement Exhibition after, where you will learn all about the Vikings, the very first fearsome settlers on this scenic island, through archaeological excavation.
The blue lagoon is often the highlight of visiting Iceland and is one of the top places to visit on your trip. Perfect for some leisure time and relaxation, the warm waters contain silica, algae and minerals known for their healing powers. The geothermal spa has accommodation and a restaurant, with packages available to get yourself a good deal. The day pass is 54€ and gives you access to the lagoon, showers and sauna as well as a complimentary drink and silicia mud mask.
Food and drink in Iceland
Food and drink in Iceland range from the usual well-known dishes to the full-blown bizarre. Fermented Shark is a delicacy known locally as Hakarl, and although it is not the most appealing to the taste buds, it is a must-try as a tourist in the country. If you wish to play it a little safer, Lamb is the favoured meat in Iceland, particularly roasted. You can also try smoked sheep head if you are feeling adventurous and want to eat like a Viking. Skyr, a dairy product made from cheese in a yoghurt form, has been fed to hungry tummiesfor thousands of years. It makes a nice dessert when topped with berries.
Drink-wise, Brennivin is the Icelandic local spirit that is similar in taste to Vodka, famous with locals during the Porrablot Winter Festival.
Top image: Beautiful view of Vik village – Iceland © Nido Huebl/Shutterstock